The 2009 ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships begin Wednesday in Vancouver, Canada. This is an ISU-sanctioned event that's been held since 1999 and allows skaters from the four continents (the Americas (counted as one), Asia, Africa and Australia) to compete for prize money. Each country is allowed to send three skaters or teams to Four Continents and there are some great matchups ahead.
For the men, I'm looking forward to seeing Canada's Patrick Chan and the U.S.'s Jeremy Abbott go head-to-head. Both are known to be in a field of their own in terms of their artistry and it'll be interesting to see how they're judged. Patrick imploded at the Grand Prix Final (which Jeremy won) and finished fifth overall but I'm hoping that he's at the top of his game so that we can truly see the matchup that was meant to be. But also in the mix for the men are Japan's Nobunari Oda and Takahiko Kozuka. Nobunari won his only Grand Prix assignment (NHK Trophy) and also won the Japanese nationals, so who knows if he's the man to beat. Here's an outside prediction from my friend who watched the U.S. nationals men's final with me -- she's convinced Brandon Mroz will surprise everyone and take the title. I'm not as confident as she is because she hasn't seen Patrick, Nobunari and Takahiko when they're at their best.
For the ladies, the U.S. is sending Alissa Czisny, Rachael Flatt and Caroline Zhang -- a pretty strong field. But how will they stack up against Japan's Mao Asada and Fumie Suguri? How about South Korea's Yu-Na Kim and Canada's Joannie Rochette? Many have already given the gold and silver to Mao and Yu-Na so is this a fight for the bronze? Not if Alissa can help it. I think she wants to prove that her win in Cleveland was not a "present" from the judges or a fluke, and that she can compete with the likes of Mao and Yu-Na. It'll be an exciting ladies event for sure and if confident and technically sound Alissa shows up, there may be a new world order soon.
In pairs, the fairy tale continues for the U.S.'s Caydee Denney and Jeremy Barrett. Joining them will be nationals champions Keauna McLaughlin and Rockne Brubaker as well as Rena Inoue and John Baldwin. This is a very packed field as well, with China's Qing Pang and Jian Tong, and Dan Zhang and Dan Zhang vying for the title. They won gold and silver, respectively, at last year's Four Continents and they're looking very strong this season winning their Grand Prix assignments, and Pang and Tong also winning the Grand Prix Final. Canada also has three strong teams entered in pairs: Mylene Brodeur and John Mattatall (replacing 2008 Canadian Pair Champions Anabelle Langlois and Cody Hay who withdraw due to injury), Jessica Dube and Bryce Davison and Meagan Duhamel and Craig Buntin.
Finally, in ice dance, it's going to be a real contest between Canada's Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and the U.S.'s Meryl Davis and Charlie White. Tessa and Scott came back to competing recently after Tessa had surgery on her leg. They won the Canadian nationals handily but haven't been tested elsewhere so this is a great matchup between them and Meryl and Charlie. Also in the event are Canada's Vanessa Crone and Paul Poirier and Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje. The U.S. has also entered Emily Samuelson and Evan Bates, and Kimberly Navarro and Brent Bommentre.
You can find the list of competitors in all disciplines from all countries here.